TPD pp 67-70: In which no plans are made

I honestly struggle with what to write for the first part of chapter 7. It’s all stuff that presumably advances the plot, but there’s not much to say about it.

Hank calls his predecessor at Ashton Community, Pastor James Ferrel, who moved far away from Ashton after being ousted from the church. Notably, he finds the number in the church records but it appears to be his home number; how many people keep their number, including a local area code, when they move across the country? That strikes me as a little odd.

Farrel apparently keeps up with town gossip, as he knows exactly who Hank is. Farrel claims “there’s a lot I could say to you”; he begins with the fact that Brummel, Turner, Mayer, and Stanley were the ones who voted him out in a congregational meeting much like the one Hank faces next Friday. He then goes on to ask if it’s true Lou Stanley was “put out of fellowship”; Hank confirms that that was his doing.

I don’t really have any experience in this area, so I’m not entirely sure what that means or how one goes about doing it to someone. Presumably it means he was kicked out of the church; the earlier conversation on page 24 mentions adultery (You can get kicked out of church for cheating on your wife? That’s really a thing outside of Catholicism? I’ve never heard of it happening before in a Protestant-derived church). Interestingly, the earlier conversation also mentions the following process:

“We did just what the Bible says: I went to Lou, then John and I went to Lou, and then we brought it before the rest of the church, and then we, well, we removed him from the fellowship.”

Earlier, I joked about Leviticus and the euphemistic qualities of “removing him from fellowship”, but I’m genuinely curious as to how that works. The congregation voted to kick him out, it seems to be implying, and yet Farrel lays the blame solely on Hank’s shoes. Is this just “You mentioned it, your fault”? I can see that sort of guilt-by-association taking place, except that there seems to be the implication that the congregation is unhappy with Hank because of it. They had a vote. Shouldn’t that mean the majority of them were fine with this? In which case, why is he concerned about being kicked out himself?

Hank thinks the congregation “could be pretty evenly divided”, so maybe I’m over-thinking this and it’s as simple as it was a very slim margin and many people have changed their mind thanks to the Gang of Four.

Then we get to the crux of the matter: Hank was “accidentally” voted in by the congregation where the Gang of Four had intended to place a more “liberal” pastor. It was “some kind of organizational fluke”, which means “Angels did it” and not “I don’t understand how voting works” in this context. Farrel’s advice? No matter how the upcoming vote goes, Hank should skip town. And possibly the priesthood altogether – Farrel makesa point of saying he’s “not a pastor”.

Farrel is scared on Hank’s behalf. He tells the new pastor that he has no idea what he’s up against, the kind of pressure that can be brought to bear against him:

It cost me my home, my reputation, my health, it almost cost my my marriage. I left Ashton literally planning on changing my name.

I wonder if he was accused of being a pedophile too?

Hank replies with talk about how this is his calling, about how this is “what the gospel is all about, fighting Satan” (I thought it was about Love Thy Neighbor and Christ is Risen? Silly me, it’s obviously “all about” spiritual warfare). Farrel tells him again that this is only the beginning. Nowhere in this does Hank have a plan, or have any way of preventing harm from coming to his family; if I were him, I’d send my wife on a nice long vacation if I were determined to stay myself. Instead, he prays, and God sends him on a walk.

Now, we know he’s being guarded by angels, but again, he has no idea he has protection from the evil forces gathering here. I’ll deal with the next passage in a later post, as I feel it deserves a post to itself, but I personally can’t relate to this at all. I’d be beside myself in his shoes: I’d need to have a plan of action, and even if I couldn’t fix the big problems (like demonic infestation), I’d be out there talking to members of the congregation, bringing over casseroles, finding out what’s got them unsettled about this and seeing if I can’t put their mind at ease. I’d be finding out as much as possible about what the four men who want me gone are actually after, see if compromise can’t be reached. I’d be reaching out to the Stanleys, making suggestions about couple’s counseling to work through their deeper issues. I’d pour through any tomes on spiritual warfare and demonology I could find. I’d be doing something. Sitting around waiting for bad things to happen has never been something I’ve been really capable of; it frustrates me to watch Hank just sort of… wander around waiting for God to give him express instructions. But then, I’ve never been a Christian, not truly in my heart. I gave up on being acceptable to the Judeo-Christian God pretty much as soon as I was old enough to reason what was being asked of me, to realize how bad a fit Christianity was to me as a person. This is one of the major stumbling blocks I had.

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3 Responses to TPD pp 67-70: In which no plans are made

  1. Jarred H says:

    Did my lengthy comment not take? Le sigh! I’ll have to try typing it up again later.

  2. Jarred H says:

    Okay, let’s repost this to the correct post.

    Hank calls his predecessor at Ashton Community, Pastor James Ferrel, who moved far away from Ashton after being ousted from the church. Notably, he finds the number in the church records but it appears to be his home number; how many people keep their number, including a local area code, when they move across the country? That strikes me as a little odd.

    Under normal circumstances, this is pretty common. Pastors leaving a congregation often leave their contact information for the new pastor, just in case the new guy needs some insight into the history of a particular situation or issue in the church, wants advice on how to deal with Brother Jeremiah’s frequent attempts to derail the adult Sunday school class with debates about why the church doesn’t worship on Saturday because it’s the original Sabbath, or dozens of other ideas.

    What makes this odd is that Ferrel’s departure wasn’t normal at all, so this makes little or no sense. Yeah, I can see him wanting to find a way to talk to Hank and warn him about everything that he might face. But given he considered changing his name, leaving his number at the church makes no sense.

    The other possibility is that Hank got Ferrel’s new name from whatever national/international organization or assembly the church is affiliated with. After all, if Ferrel has a pastor’s pension coming to him, someone needs to know where to send the check. And that someone probably wouldn’t think much of giving that information to the new guy who took over the church.

    I don’t really have any experience in this area, so I’m not entirely sure what that means or how one goes about doing it to someone. Presumably it means he was kicked out of the church; the earlier conversation on page 24 mentions adultery (You can get kicked out of church for cheating on your wife? That’s really a thing outside of Catholicism? I’ve never heard of it happening before in a Protestant-derived church).

    Welcome to the concept of disfellowshipping. I think it’s primarily practiced — and even then it’s neither universal nor common — by Pentecostals. The most common reason for disfellowhipping is indeed adultery (and possibly pre-marital sex), and the basis for this comes from 1 Corinthians, where Paul himself instructs the church in Corinth to “cast out the adulterous man and treat him as a non-believer.”

    As an aside, some scholars syggest that this was a specific instruction about a specific person whose exact sins were not clear. As such, they feel that trying to apply this universally to all cases of “sexual sins” may be an error.

    “We did just what the Bible says: I went to Lou, then John and I went to Lou, and then we brought it before the rest of the church, and then we, well, we removed him from the fellowship.”

    The part about going Lou privately, then going with John, and then bringing up with the whole church is semi-Biblical. It’s based on a passage where Paul (I think) is offering advice on how to deal with disagreements between fellow Christians. In context, it’s offering a method of resolution that is far more friendly than the practice of dragging the other person into the courts and making a bitter battle. Again, whether it is correct to apply it to a case of adultery is a bit questionable. I’d also note that the passage is about handling things better, whereas how it’s applied in this story turns it into a legalistic “rule of order” on how to kick someone out. I’m not convinced that falls in with the original spirit of the passage.

    The congregation voted to kick him out, it seems to be implying,

    I’m not sure that’s correct. Yes, Hank brought the matter up in front of the whole congregation. But I don’t think that necessarily means that he left the decision of what to do up to a majority vote. I suspect it was more a case of Hank saying, “Here’s what’s going on and here’s how I and a couple of the elders (the Pentecostal equivalent to deacons)” determined to do. Pentecostals tend to be a weird mix of democratic and authoritarian like that.

    I wonder if he was accused of being a pedophile too?

    Spoiler alert.

    Adultery, pedophilia, and rape seem to be stock accusations that the Enemies of God use frequently in this book. So quite possibly, yes.

    (I thought it was about Love Thy Neighbor and Christ is Risen? Silly me, it’s obviously “all about” spiritual warfare).

    There’s a reason that some of us tend to inform such Christians that there is very little news in their “Good News” that is good.

    Now, we know he’s being guarded by angels, but again, he has no idea he has protection from the evil forces gathering here.

    Ah, but he’s one of God’s chosen, so he has to have faith that he has such protection. This is one of those weird things about spiritual warfare types. They both believe they are constantly surrounded by treacherous evil and the traps of the enemy and yet completely safe from it.

    see if compromise can’t be reached.

    Psstt….you’re talking about a subculture that sees “compromise” as a dirty word. “Compromise” means “impugning your righteousness.”

    I’d be reaching out to the Stanleys, making suggestions about couple’s counseling to work through their deeper issues.

    That would mean acknowledging that there are deeper issues. Plus “couples counseling” (at least the useful sort) is most likely based on psychology. You know who’s into psychology? Juleen(sp?) Langstrat! (Insert about fifty three “Ooga Booga!” comments here.)

    I’d pour through any tomes on spiritual warfare and demonology I could find.

    At the time this book was written there were no such tomes. (Actually, I suspect you’d find it hard to find such a tome even today.) In fact, the closest thing to such a thing at the time was this book. Hank’s a character in this book, so he can’t exactly pick it up and read it. (Though that would make for some interestingly surreal fiction.)

    I should clarify, however, that I should say that there are no such books from a Pentecostal perspective. Sure, the Catholics have plenty of books on demons, exorcisms, and whatnot. But that’s all way too Catholic (read: blasphemous) for a Pentecostal pastor like Hank. Spiritual warfare from his standpoint is pretty straightforward:

    1. Be a good Christian.
    2. Notice when you believe a demon is active.
    3. Rebuke said demon in Jesus’s name.

    That’s a very short book. And by “book,” I really mean “pamphlet.”

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